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How to get your bike really clean

A clean bike is a fast bike!

Just because you have a fast time-machine, doesn’t mean you can just leave it be without any “Tender, Love and Care.” Not only will a clean bike look good in the transition zone, but it will also save you a few watts as you race against the clock.

Depending on how much you ride, weekly or biweekly bike cleanings are a good habit to get into.

1. Remove the crud throughout the drivetrain. Not only will this ensure that everything is running at its best, but it also prolongs the life of some components. The drivetrain consists of the chain, cassette, chainrings, and the front and rear derailleurs.

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It’s best to remove your chain and cassette, but you can get away with using a thin rag and some degreaser to remove all the grit. Spray the cassette with degreaser and scrub with a hard-bristle brush to loosen up the crud. Next, “floss” in between each cog with a thin rag, and then spray one more time and blow-dry. With the chain, you can leave the rear wheel on the bike or remove the wheel and use a chain-tension device. Grab your chain-cleaning tool and place it on the chain. Rotate the cranks a few times. Remove the tool and dry the chain with rags and air.

If you do remove the cassette, make sure to use a cable tie to hold the cassette cogs in order. Soak the chain and cogs in degreaser. Afterwards, give those parts a good scrub with a brush. You may want to clean each cog if the set is really dirty. Dry the components with a rag then hit them with some air from an air compressor if you have one.

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Spray the derailleurs with degreaser and use the brush to scrub.

2. Use a hose to spray down the bike. Then use a brush/sponge to scrub the wheels, tires and frame. Rinse and repeat.

If you opt for the no-water option, diluted Simple Green cleaner and a clean microfibre cloth work well. You can also use a toothbrush in and around the brake area, but stay away from using excess soap on disc brake rotors and callipers.

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3. Lubricate the chain and derailleur pivots. Don’t forget this step.  Once your bike is clean, take a moment to admire your work before getting out to ride.

Top tools for cleaning your bike

The essentials

  • Warm soapy water in a bucket
  • A couple of old toothbrushes, sponge and brush
  • A garden hose
  • Diluted Simple Green cleaner or equivalent in a spray bottle
  • Chain-tension device, so you can turn the cranks and chain with the rear wheel removed
  • Clean rags, microfibre cloth and polish/detailer

Nice to have

  • Bike stand
  • Chain-cleaning device with degreaser
  • Air compressor